Sunderland’s relocation from the Academy of Light and from their ground makes them the first casualties of the switch to a winter Women’s Super League season but the parallels with PSG show this is a wider issue
The decision of Sunderland to relocate their women’s team miles from home – turfed off the Academy of Light training pitches and out of their Hetton Centre home ground – follows a worrying pattern. The move, from the club that kickstarted the careers of a host of England internationals now laden with silverware such as Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott, Demi Stokes, Jordan Nobbs and the Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton, is a further blow to a team who seemed to be thriving in recent years.
Promotion to the top tier of women’s football in 2015, having won the WSL 2, was followed by an impressive fourth-place finish – staying in the WSL 1 after promotion is increasingly difficult as the gulf between those arriving in the league and the professional teams at the top continues to grow. A challenging 2016 saw them drop to seventh, before they pulled up to fifth behind Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – the top four professionalised sides – in the Spring Series at the start of the year.
The future for a Sunderland women’s team who reached the 2016 FA Cup semi-final looks bleak